People were pumped when a GoldieBlox commercial debuted in late 2013, advertising engineering-based toys which aim to empower young girls. Little did the company know that it would have to issue a public apology for their innovative concept just months later.
The commercial (above) features a re-written version of the Beastie Boys’ 1986 smash “Girls,” and after its release, it quickly racked up millions of views on YouTube and garnered tons of media attention. The success of the commerical triggered the Beastie Boys to reach out to GoldieBlox and remind the company that the group’s music has never been licensed for advertising purposes (this was even)stipulated in the late Adam Yauch’s will.
Next, GoldieBlox sued the Beastie Boys. Stick with us, we’ll explain.
GoldieBlox received the letter, and sued the Beastie Boys. They filed what is called a declaratory injuction in a California federal court, saying essentially that the Beastie Boys are wrong. They cited fair use laws (check out Nolo’s explanation for more info) and noted that the company did not violate copyright laws since the use of the song was a parody in an effort to “break down gender stereotypes.”
As you can imagine, the Beastie Boys weren’t too pumped about being sued by a company that they felt illegally used their material, so what did they do? Members Mike D. and Ad-Rock responded with an open letter, calling GoldieBlox out: “When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”
Then they countersued, filing claims for which included copyright infringement, trademark infringement, false endorsement, unfair competition, and misappropriation of publicity rights.
GoldieBlox creator Debbie Sterling responded with her own open letter, noting that she and the company didn’t want to spend their time fighting legal battles, but rather they “want to inspire the next generation,” and “want to be [the Beastie Boys’] friends,” but it wasn’t enough to make the cases go away.
The Beastie Boys’ suit was settled on March 19. GoldieBlox was ordered to apologize for using their song (which it did on its website — scroll to the bottom) and to make a donation “one or more charities selected by Beastie Boys that support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education for girls.”
If you want to check out the nitty gritty of the back-and-forth between GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys, head to the Future of Music Coalition’s list of six things to know about the case.